"Holy s**t" – Game of Gold shines as players praise new poker reality show

Mo Afdhal
Posted on: November 14, 2023 01:06 PST

Game of Gold, the revolutionary brainchild of GGPoker and Poker After Dark, launched last Friday, and it's already picked up an army of fans.

The show combines the competitiveness of high-stakes poker with the excitement of reality television and introduces a new format of poker content in the process. Episodes air exclusively on the GGPoker YouTube channel on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Game of Gold brings together sixteen players from a variety of poker backgrounds to compete in a series of challenges. Over the course of the twelve episodes, the players will compete across a variety of poker formats, including Sit & Gos, Heads-up, and Indian poker. The winners of each challenge accumulate gold coins, while those who fall short find themselves at risk of elimination.

In the final round, a standard poker tournament amongst those still in the game, players convert their gold coins into chips, with each chip equaling a single big blind. The last player standing at the end of the challenges takes home the grand prize of $456,000.

The games begin

In episode one, we see the players split into four teams of four: Hearts, Spades, Clubs, and Diamonds. It's unclear at this point whether the team aspect of the show will continue throughout, but based on trailer footage, the teams will undergo a mix-up at some point.

❤️Team Hearts❤️
David Williams, Andy Stacks, Lukas Robinson, Olga Iermolcheva

♠Team Spades♠
Fedor Holz, Charlie Carrel, Johan Guilbert, Nikita Luther

♣Team Clubs♣
Jason Koon, Daniel Negreanu, Kevin Martin, Michael Soyza

♦️️Team Diamonds♦️️
Josh Arieh, Maria Ho, Kyna England, Daniel Cates

The first challenge presented is a Sit & Go-style tournament with four rounds. One player from each team competes in each round to win a certain number of gold coins based on where they finish. There's an increasing number of gold coins awarded in each round, but there's also a twist, however, as the final round awards an unknown number of coins. The team that acquires the fewest coins faces elimination from the competition.

And this is where Game of Gold starts to shine. How do the teams decide which players to put into which leg? How do they deal with the mystery element of the fourth leg? Here, gameshow strategy comes into play, and those with reality television experience (Kevin Martin, David Williams, Maria Ho) start to stand out.

You get to see the highlights of the Sit & Gos—the big hands and key decisions—but you also get to see the reactions and critiques from the other three players. There's big money on the line, and poker players aren't used to their survival resting on what's happening in a game they're not playing in. It makes for fascinating viewing and, if the producers get it right, could really inject some of the staples of reality TV into the show.

With two episodes dropped so far, we're about halfway through the Sit & Go brackets. The next episode drops on Wednesday, November 15.

A welcome innovation

Already, responses to the show are overwhelmingly positive, with players like Phil Galfond, Patrick Leonard and Rob Yong among the fans.

Leonard tweeted his detailed thoughts on the show, including suggestions for future seasons and the optimal strategy for winning.

Leonard highlights the show's strengths and makes a few predictions. The one modification that most fans, Leonard included, hope to see is the introduction of villains on the show. Names like Martin Kabrhel, Will Kassouf, and Phil Hellmuth are obvious but clearly brilliant suggestions for the future.

Matt Berkey and the Only Friends Podcast crew offered their initial thoughts and reactions on the first two episodes during their show this Monday. In one clip, Berkey says, "The DNeg, Koon, Soyza, KMart team, holy shit. I'm rooting so hard for them to be eliminated first because that team is so f*****g stacked. They have three of the best players in the house, and they have the best reality TV show competitor in the house."

All good reality television shows have discussion-based podcasts dedicated to breaking down each episode. Daniel Negreanu's DAT Poker Podcast scratches that itch for Game of Gold fans. Thus far, they've covered the first two episodes and recently brought on fellow contestant Josh Arieh to get the inside scoop from him. The recaps offer a unique insight, mostly via Negreanu, into the behind-the-scenes action--the juicy stuff that might not make the final cut.

Clearly, the show has found an audience within the poker community, and giving viewers something to actually care about makes it feel very different.

The key question now is: can the show find viewers outside the poker sphere?

The good

The show is genuinely trying something different. It's not perfect, but it's got everyone talking about a poker show again and that hasn't happened in a long time.

It's also got the potential to create real characters in poker again, and we've been crying out for that for ages. The Game of Gold cast is intriguing, but who is going to be the villain?

Regardless, no one is ever forgetting the sight of Charlie Carrel rocking a jacket-no-shirt combo that's as brilliant as it is polarising. And his closed-eye meditation at the poker table is a sight to behold. We're Team Spades all the way at the moment.

Charlie Carrel on Game of Gold

The bad

Charlie Carrel said what we were thinking, with three of the four teams selecting to put women in the Sit & Go bracket with the least points on offer. The only team that put a man out there was Team Clubs, an all-male team.

"Oh, that is not good optics to have three women in the first division," Carrel said. This will absolutely come back to bite someone later on in the series.

We also don't know what is going to happen in the fourth Sit & Go with mystery points, but we're sure it's going to be some sort of twist. And that could (hopefully) backfire on the team selection.

Olga Iermolcheva on Game of Gold

Episode 3 of Game of Gold drops on GGPoker's YouTube channel on Wednesday, November 15 at midday UTC. New episodes are dropped every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until December 4 when the first champion will be crowned.